Retouching – Quick Tip #01

This tip may apply to most of today’s image editing programs but in this case I’ll show you how to use it in two that are part of my usual digital workflow, Capture One and Affinity Photo.

The first is Capture One and although this is not a program with all the features to correct problems such as spots, dust, blemishes, etc., it still has good tools so we can achieve excellent results without the need to use other applications.
As we edit/clean an image, there are sometimes details we could miss so to prevent this situation there is a simple method to make them visible, even the most hidden one.


The technique consists in creating a new Layer, choose the Fill Mask option and use the “Curves” tool to draw a curve similar to the one above. This may vary and may need to be adjusted but will always be identical to the one in the example. By default and to keep everything organised, I always call this layer Hide and Seek and I check it whenever it’s needed. This method is quite effective at highlighting these problems as you can see from the before and after screenshot below.

The second program where I use this technique is Affinity Photo. This one has all the features we need to make the most complex image editing/retouching. But we can still face the same problem and miss something that must be removed. We can use the same method to avoid such situations but in this case we go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves Adjustment and make a curve as in the example of Capture One. Then just edit the image preferably in an independent layer to make your edits non-destructive.

Another similar technique that works particularly well on skin is to create a black & white adjustment layer where we set the value for the Red to -200, all the way to the left. And depending on the skin tone we can also adjust the value of the Yellow slider. The image below is a good example.

Since I use this techniques very often I have chosen to create in Affinity Photo two Macros (actions) for each of them. That way the whole process gets even faster. If you want to start using these resources you can download the Macros I’ve created using the links below.
I hope this tip can be useful and if you want you can subscribe to my blog to stay up to date on the latest news.

See you soon


Capture One
Affinity Photo

Hide and Seek – Curves Method.afmacros
Hide and Seek – B&W Method.afmacros

Supreme Quality

Talking about Capture One is synonymous of talking about quality regarding RAW editing. But before addressing this feature inherent to the program I want to make a statement: I was “forced” to work with Capture One. This was not my first choice to edit RAW files but although it seems a bit of a silly statement, the impact this change had on my workflow was one of the best things that happened to my work so I believe is worth of being shared.

I have always searched for the best quality, not only in terms of photography but also in the simple things of life. Doing things well was and is something that is part of me. Because of that and since I’m a Nikon user, I found it natural to go with  Capture NX   as my primary RAW editing software. Although it needed some improvements, what I was looking for was there, quality. The photos edited in this program were simply different and although not everyone agrees with me, for a Nikon user it was the right choice for those who wanted the best.

But time changes and for a long time Nikon left his program in an apparent abandonment, at least that was what I and others thought. In this period of uncertainties, many photographers like me turned to other solutions that could give us guarantees of support. After some research and testing I ended up choosing Apple Aperture. I cannot say the quality that could be extracted from a Nikon RAW file was the same as in Capture NX but it was very close. However it had a great advantage, everything seemed more simple and intuitive, something that Apple had already been given us.

During the period I was a faithful Aperture user Nikon released a redesigned Capture NX calling it Capture NX-D. However I was never convinced to go back. In this upgrade they also lost another of his great features, the edition with U-Point technology (Nik Software, Google Nik and now DXO Photo Lab – more about this program at the end of the article). During this time I never stopped to see other options and tested apps like Lightroom (I simply never liked it, the results, how to work, etc. It could be my fault but it didn’t fit my workflow. Today and with the actual Adobe policy I do not even consider it despite it’s getting better over time.), DXO Optics Pro/DXO Photo Lab (I was convinced from day one so it became part of my workflow specially for images with specific needs. In certain aspects is the best out there.), Capture One (The best RAW editor along side with Capture NX. I never compared them side by side because I never thought it would be a relevant comparison but I was convinced by the results. The only problem was the workflow/workspace approach, it was not better or worse, just different from mine and to which I was already familiarised with. So I created some resistance to go back and start everything all over again.) and OnOne (At that time I thought it missed a good foundation to edit RAW files, something very important to me. Besides that I can only say good things about it. With the latest upgrades many things have changed for better and now I consider it a great contender – On1 Photo Raw.).

But time changes again and I just didn’t wanted to believe when I found out Apple decided to abandon Aperture. Once again many others like me had to find other solutions, but this time I knew already the way to go. My choice went for the program that best met my primary requirement, quality. I’ve been working with Capture One since then and never looked back. The resistance I mentioned earlier turned out to be irrelevant, even because for someone with experience in editing, finding is way on how to do things in Capture One is an easy task.

But apart from the quality, Capture One has a series of features that makes it one of the best options for editing RAW files. With the recent update to version 11 we saw many features improved and others added. Based on this latest update I would like to share the seven features I like the most about Capture One.

01. Quality
I know I’ve mentioned before in this article but it’s never too much to point out that the quality we get by editing a RAW file in Capture One is amazing. Of course other programs can also achieve great results but the idea we get is that the starting point in Capture One is ahead of the others which often means less editing work.

02. Customizable UI
The ability to customize the workspace of Capture One to fit your needs is something that not always get the attention it deserves. But this is a feature that greatly enhances the way we work. Having the workspace tailored to your preferences, from the toolbar, tool tabs, panels, shortcuts among others, makes all the difference when we count the time we spend editing images in hours a day. In the future I’ll share a tutorial on how to get the most of this feature.

03. Color Adjustments
This is perhaps the most evidenced feature of Capture One and it’s easy to understand why. The options available allow us to use them for creative and correction adjustments. From “Curves” to “Levels” to “Color Balance” and “Color Editor”  that have the option to work with skin tones, they all give us the necessary solutions to get the best and most creative results.

04. Layers
Capture One had for some time a feature called “Local Adjustments”. Basically it allowed certain localized corrections with the use of masks. In the last update this option was renamed Layers and this change is not only at the nomenclature level. From now on this option is available for almost all the tools/adjustments, it allows us to adjust the opacity which gives us a greater control over the corrections we make and allows a better organization in terms of workflow, since we can organize in separate layers the adjustments regarding color, exposure, etc.

05. Masking
Usually the ability to create complicated masks is restricted to some specialized applications. With version 11 of Capture One that reality has changed. Within the program itself we now have the option to create elaborate masks using the previously existing “Brush”, “Erase” and “Gradient” tools but with the possibility of using the new “Feather Mask” and “Refine Mask”. The results are excellent. We can also see the masks in black and white, an option that allows a better adjustment of them.

06. Annotations
This is a new feature. Personally and since I edit my own images, I began to use Annotations to create and store information about the aspects of an image that needed to be corrected or adjustments I intend to make in the future. Even when I finish editing an image I keep these notes to have a reference of the decisions and creative process I made at that time. For photographers who trust their images to professional retouchers, this functionality may be even more important because it allows them to give those same informations in the image itself without having to write a text document or create something more graphic in another program.

07. Compatibility
We do not live in isolation so the compatibility of Capture One with other programs or files is worth of being mentioned. I believe this is the best policy. So, and although we are talking about a pure RAW editor, it can edit TIFF, JPEG and PNG files. It’s also fully compatible with PSD files allowing to change between both applications based on the editing needs we have. However I would like to see in the future this compatibility with files from Affinity Photo, the app I consider a game changer for every digital artist.

Despite so many good things there are some aspects to consider. Let’s not forget that we are dealing with a RAW editor and there are things beyond the goals for which Capture One was created. But within it’s range we are possibly before one of the best RAW editors if not the best. Congratulations to the team behind this program for the dedication and innovation they bring upgrade after upgrade. As an alternative I want to leave the indication that if I were “forced” to change again, I would go entirely to DXO Photo Lab. It continues to be part of my workflow because it has some unique features and with the recent inclusion of U-Point technology is an option that simply cannot be discarded.

The opinion I share is based on my personal experience. It may be different from most of the users but nevertheless it’s sincere and based on my own workflow. No one pays me to say good things (or bad) of the application A or B. I just believe that my vision and experience can help others on a path I’ve did before. I hope this is a reality for you.

Um Conto de Inverno

O Inverno é por larga maioria a estação que reúne menos adeptos, mas o mau tempo sempre foi amigo do fotógrafo. Esta é uma realidade absoluta, ainda que apenas os mais destemidos ousem enfrentar as condições climatéricas mais adversas. O aconchego do lar fala quase sempre mais alto. Além disso esta “amizade” tem um preço, e digamos que ter o corpo gelado e molhado não é propriamente a melhor definição de conforto para a maioria das pessoas.

Eu sou dos que gostam de se aventurar por esta estação tão particular. No entanto, ou por questões de agenda profissional que impede determinadas escapadelas, ou para dar liberdade às minhas indagações criativas,  opto por usar às vezes uma técnica que permite transformar (quase) qualquer fotografia num lindo dia de Inverno como neste caso em que utilizei uma paisagem outonal.

Esta imagem foi usada para demonstrar como adicionar neve de forma realista a uma fotografia (ver artigo Branca, Leve e Fria), um pormenor que ajuda ainda mais a acentuar as características desta estação. Neste tutorial demonstro a técnica que utilizei para mudar de estação com o uso dos channels, layers e filtros.

Esta técnica consegue resultados bastante bons em quase todo o tipo de fotografias mas há, não obstante, algumas em que se conseguem melhores resultados do que outras. Podemos sempre combinar mais do que uma técnica para conseguir o melhor resultado possível. Foi o que fiz neste segundo exemplo para dar mais destaque à neve nas árvores e também para “arrefecer” a imagem

Independentemente do caminho, temos as ferramentas para dar liberdade à nossa imaginação, sendo que a mesma só está limitada pela nossa criatividade e limite técnico. Espero que com este tutorial esses dois factores possam ter agora um menor peso na hora de “voarem”…


Branca, Leve e Fria

E podia acrescentar desejável. Pelo menos em termos fotográficos. Para quem ainda não fez a associação, estou a falar da neve e o título é uma alusão ao poema de Augusto Gil — “Balada da Neve”.  À parte das memórias de infância, o título mais apropriado seria, Affinity Photo Tutorial: How To Create “Good Looking” Snow (ver video), ou seja como criar a nossa própria neve de forma realista no Affinity Photo.

E porquê criar neve? Bem, a maioria aceita que a neve cobre seja o que for de uma beleza única, mas nem todos temos a “sorte” de sermos presenteados todos os invernos com a mesma, ou esta encontra-se a distâncias proibitivas. Eu sou um desses “infelizes”. No entanto, às vezes são devaneios criativos que me levam a explorar outras estações. À parte dos motivos, brincar na neve e com neve é sempre divertido. Vejam o video, comentem, coloquem questões/dúvidas e leiam o restante deste artigo onde poderão encontrar algumas surpresas…

Como sempre existem várias formas de chegar ao mesmo destino mas esta é a que utilizo mais vezes e a que acredito ser mais flexível e realista . Espero que esta dica possa ajudar a nevar para o vosso lado criativo.

Já agora, a imagem que serviu de exemplo neste artigo percorreu um longo caminho até ser o que é. Esse caminho fará parte de dois futuros artigos. Deixo aqui um “before and after” para revelar um pouco do que irei demonstrar.

E finalmente, para quem não quiser estar com o trabalho todo de criar o “brush”, disponibilizo para download as minhas duas versões, Light Snow e Heavy Snow. Divirtam-se nas vossas criações e partilhem o resultado.

Pedro Soares Snow Brushes.afbrushes